Round Peg in a Square Hole

In 2008 I sold a house. I had remodeled the house back to its original character, pulling out 70s carpet and mobile home wallboard, and installing built-ins and woodworking true to the house’s 1920’s charm. After the sale, I realized I had forgotten a little ceramic sun, a smiling cherub made by a local artist. I went to the house and asked the buyers if they had the sun. They told me they had thrown it away. Shocked and hurt, I said goodbye and left. Over the next several months, I heard from neighbors I remained in touch with that they had ripped out the built-in bookshelves, torn out all the shrubs in the back yard, and cut down the giant tree in the front yard. After hearing this I vowed never to return to this place into which I had poured literally years of my life making beautiful. I did not want to see how it had been ruined.

Five years ago I bought another bungalow, my first after the sale of the house in 2008. Built in 1941, it had been a rental for over 20 years. The seller chose mine from several offers based on the letter I wrote to her telling her about my two daughters and my desire to make a home for them. I loved this little house. It was darling and sweet, with an arch between the dining and living room, and tiny arches over the door bell on the wall and the phone nook. This little place was simply lovely.

The seller had installed new windows and had some plumbing done before the sale. She installed a new sewer line, which tore up the front yard. She covered the wound with sod to spruce things up. Upon move in, I set out to create a habitat for birds and bees. I covered the sod with native plants in varying sizes. I installed a watering system to keep everyone happy in the summer. I nurtured and watered and pulled the grass out by hand. No poisons touched this place. I planted small trees that grew tall, fluffy medium bushes, and flowers–so many flowers! Every spring and summer the yard hummed with the life of pollinators and birds, flitting among the plant life, which grew prolifically.

In spite of my love for this adorable house, I gradually grew to despise the city in which it was located. Thousands upon thousands of people were moving into Portland, and it was changing, and not in a good way. It stopped being friendly. Traffic became unbearable. Costs skyrocketed. I decided I needed to live somewhere less obnoxious, plus our whole family wanted to be closer to the land and away from cement and fuel exhaust and noise. After nearly two years of consideration I put my little house on the market, vowing that this time I would find a buyer who loved the house as much as I had. Someone who would care for the plants and gardens. Someone who cared about the character of the place and would not rip out the built-ins in the kitchen to replace with ugly granite counters and steel appliances.

Immediately after listing, someone stole four blueberry bushes out of the backyard. They dug them up, filled in the holes, and covered them with mulch. This broke my heart. I cried and cried, hoping that whomever had taken them would care for them as much as I had. I could only hope that they would show as much care for these plants as they had for hiding the evidence of their thievery.

I received a couple of offers, but both were much below asking price. Two weeks after listing, I received an offer that was below what I was asking, but not by much. As part of the offer, the prospective buyers wrote me a letter telling me how lovely the plants and landscaping were, and how they had seen the yard grow and change over the years, and how this made the house special to them. Oh wonderful! I thought. These are the kind of people I’m talking about. These people will take care of my house. I counter offered to a higher price and they accepted.

I have often in my life discovered that I can be quite naive when it comes to treachery. I don’t see it coming and when it happens, I am shocked and angered at my own naivete. In spite of my efforts to try and make this house sale different, I stupidly did not ask the right questions and made assumptions based on this letter that the people actually wanted to live there and leave the plants alone.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They have been gutting it and have a for rent sign out front and are planning to “thin” the trees and plants. Even worse, the neighbors discovered they are turning my darling bungalow into a duplex! (Although I guess I can’t call it mine anymore, now can I?) And unfortunately, since I let the guy know I was upset about this, he isn’t letting me come and remove the plants he is planning to kill at the end of the week. When I told the guy that I felt like I had been misled, he told me that he should never have talked to me because I am “too emotional.” Basically, Mr. Lack of Empathy turned his being a lying asshole into my problem because I had an emotional reaction to his destruction and dishonesty. What is really remarkable to me is that I had not really expressed much when he said this.

I’ve spoken to the neighbor, begged him to get in there and rescue things before they are killed. I don’t know if he will do it. He is one of the few people I know who loves plants as much as I do, but his yard is full and his husband has told him no more plants. I asked him just to take them out and I’ll come get them. The most frustrating part of this is the powerlessness that I feel. If I lived just a little bit closer, I would be there now with buckets and a shovel bringing those plants here with me. Getting further away from that city makes it that much harder to get there if I have some need to. I am going to complain about the realtor who brokered this deal, the realtor who allowed these people to lie to me and lead me to believe they were going to live in this house and take care of the plants when they were planning otherwise. I had many conversations with him about my desires. He knew what I wanted. He may have represented them and had a duty to them, but he also had a duty to be honest, and giving me a letter that implied other than their intentions was dishonest. At the very least, I am going to post reviews of him everywhere I can.

I don’t fit in this death culture. Most people, when they hear this story, ask me, “What’s the big deal? They’re just plants.” But why should it matter less because they are plants? Why are their lives worth less? Plus even more than that, what about the fact that habitat I created that was teeming with life? Why don’t those lives matter? For whatever reason, these liars want to destroy this mini ecosystem. No reason they could offer is justification for misleading me or for doing any of it. They want to gut the house and remodel? Fine, whatever. I’ve lived that. But to take out the plant life and destroy it, too is simply wrong. And telling me that this was what made the house so beautiful and special, just so that I would accept their offer is just plain evil.

This is the review I wrote on  the agent who represented the buyers: Mr. Michalowski represented the buyers when I sold my house. As part of their offer, the buyers wrote me a nice letter stating how much they loved the landscaping and beauty of my charming little home, and how they had enjoyed watching in change during the years that I owned it. In the course of negotiations, I explained to Mr. Michalowski that I was excited to have someone interested who wanted to live in and take care of my house. I told him that I didn’t want someone who was just going to rent it out. He never once insinuated that the buyer’s letter was a complete lie and that they intended to gut the house, kill the plants I had spent years nurturing, and turn the thing into a duplex. He did well by his clients, letting them lie to me so that the sale would go through. Now the sale is done, his pockets are lined, and the neighbors I promised would have a family next door will be subject to living with renters who don’t give a damn about the house or anything associated with it. I offered to take any plants the buyers wouldn’t want, but Mr. Michalowski said the sellers could make these arrangements once the sale was done. Landscapers are coming this week to “thin” including taking out trees I spent a fortune on and spent years nurturing to ensure they would grow. Devious and void of any integrity, that is how I would describe both these buyers and Mr. Michalowski. If you want an agent who will do the devil’s bidding, if you want a smooth operator who will skillfully lie and evade, he’s your man. If you want honesty and above-board negotiations and information, run.

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The Split Begins Early

The Eagle Creek fire is destroying forests all around Mt. Hood in Oregon and across the river in Washington. There are many fires raging, but this one is particularly wretched because it is known that it was begun by a teenager playing with fireworks. The woman who reported his action and the actions of the other teens with him described them as non-reactive to the likelihood they had started a fire in a very dry forest (see the story here). She said the girls were giggling and that they all were encouraging his behavior. They filmed it, like it was something fun to put on SnapChat or something. The woman’s description of these kids sounded like children who are very disconnected from their actions and the consequences for those actions.

In My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chellis Glendinning describes the split, the dissociation from the self, that occurs in humans when they become “civilized.” Civilization is built on abuse and destruction. We began by destroying the land in order to grow things according to our own will. This led to abuse upon abuse upon abuse, to the point where abuse is the norm. Derrick Jensen, in The Myth of Human Supremacy, describes how in western civilization, we are indoctrinated from the moment of birth into a belief system whereby humans rule everything and that all the world is at their disposal. To my mind, the original sin was that of humans leaving the earth to “tame” and control it, bending it to their will, first through agriculture and on to the world we have today, where every aspect of the world is under human control. The Garden of Eden was the world before humans decided that they were “special” and that everything should be as humans decree. Thus, the split was born. Humans disconnect first from their selves, then from others, and finally from the world around them. Humans are the most invasive species, and the world is suffering because of it.

Today, that indoctrination begins practically before a child is born. It is not uncommon in this country for doctors and parents to schedule births induced by chemicals. That such births often result in the death of the fetus or the mother, or in an invasive surgical Caesarean section is no matter; it is a given that in most western births, induction of some sort will be the norm. Those of us who choose to have children at home with no drugs or medical intervention are considered bizarre and dangerous, as if the control of the hospital and the intervention of drugs is the more safe, and therefore, more sane route to childbirth. We are the wild west parents, putting ourselves and our delicate children in danger rather than having a birth controlled by chemicals and machines (or a doctor’s golf schedule).

Once the child is born, it is immediately placed into a system designed to disconnect it from anything remotely resembling connection to the self or its parents. The split is encouraged early. A “good” baby is one that sleeps all night as young as possible, without interrupting its parent’s lifestyle. One of the most common early questions of new parents is whether their child is sleeping through the night (because a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night makes it impossible for parents to sleep through the night, and discomfort of any kind is to be avoided at all costs in civilization).

Thousands of books have been written on the subject of getting children to sleep through the night alone. Doctors create systems such as that of Dr. Richard Ferber, whereby parents let their tiny infants scream and cry until they learn that their cries bring nothing and they finally give up and shut up. It is the ultimate in teaching children from a very early age not to trust that the world around them will be safe and welcoming. The parents hover outside, periodically going in and patting the child, then retreating to let it cry even further, viewing the action from a monitor in another room. It is pure insanity.

Children cannot tolerate sleeping away from their parents, and small babies need to be fed more frequently than once every eight hours, but never mind this. Parents still do it in western culture. Children are placed in cages in separate rooms away from their parents to sleep alone within days of birth. The parents hover over electronic monitors and cameras, rather than have their children in the same room or indeed, even in the same bed as them. In western civilization, a child who sleeps with its parents is considered to be “spoiled,” like a piece of meat gone bad. I have often wondered how bizarre it would be if wolves and bears laid their cubs in separate caves far from their mothers. What if mice placed each bare infant in multiple holes far from their warm breasts? Mammals have breasts for feeding infants. Only human mammals place their children in cages far from their breasts forcing them to ignore their own needs and call it normal (it’s an entire other subject and outside the scope of this rant how our language encourages all this crazy nonsense).

In addition to putting children in cages and ignoring their basic needs, parents feed them fake milk from plastic nipples rather than from their own breasts. In spite of multiple studies showing that this is bad for babies, bad for mothers, and even bad for the economy (which I could care less about, but which is a major force in this culture), breastfeeding children as long as nature intended remains a rare thing indeed among western mothers.

By the time children are two or three years old, they are already completely desensitized from what they were meant to be biologically. With the advent of iPads and other screen devices that further entertain and rewire the brain (see here, and here, and here), screens as babysitters are the norm. It’s no wonder that by the time some children are teenagers, they can toss firecrackers into a dry ravine and giggle as a fire begins to rage.

I could go on and on. This culture is crazy. Civilization is not how life is meant to be on this planet. We are the Earth. The Earth is us. Yet we continue to pretend we are separate and above it even as the obvious fact that we are not and that our attempts to control everything do not work. Mama Nature knows what is best. Sadly, we seem unable to see what is right in front of our faces and senseless destruction is the result.

Stuff and Things

It occurs to me that most people in our culture have lost sight of the fact that in chasing money, we are essentially chasing things. Someone wants a thing, and their desire for more money is the desire to have as many things as they want, when they want them. That’s what having more money brings. I’m not talking about the people at the very bottom of our capitalist triangle who have to struggle just to survive, those for whom a few dollars would mean the ability to stay very basically comfortable. I’m talking about any level above having what one needs to survive easily: a safe place to sleep, food, and health well-being. “Security” as it has been sold to us, is theoretically having enough money in the bank to ensure the safe place to sleep, food, and health. Yet for most it goes beyond that into wanting to have things. Ask anyone with dreams of riches and it is the lying on the beach or yacht anytime that they want, the clothes, the jewelry, the gadgets, the cars, and on and on, that fill their dreams. Pinterest is filled with photos of all the things that humans want. People will spend hours creating these online photo albums of all the stuff they desire. (In the meantime, while posting these things and dreaming about them, the interactions with humans and other non-human animals around them are limited.)

Yesterday I dropped off some stuff at the donation center. We are moving so we are getting rid of stuff. I have felt this immense urge to purge. What is all this stuff? The line at the place was cars deep, everyone ridding themselves of things, some of which had to have been wanted at some point. Either that or or they were ridding themselves of stuff someone gave them either out of a sense of duty to give, some obligation, or some other self-serving necessity. Perhaps for some the thing was given in love and received as such, but at this point, the thing is now being discarded, filling a warehouse, filling a landfill, being sold into places where the abundance of things is not as profuse as it is in the good, ol’ USA. Stuff, stuff, everywhere. In the meantime, we destroy the earth to build enormous buildings to house the things. We rape and pillage the land to carve roads and fill the land with things, things that will rot in piles long after we are gone.

How Not to React?

Modern civilization’s poisons do not agree with me. They make my skin itch, my nose and lungs snort and sneeze, my toenails crumble, my brain refuse to sleep, my body react in rashes and aches and all assortment of physiological responses. My body says, No! to the way things are.

I do the dances necessary to avoid these things. I turn up my nose at edible food-like substances pretending they are something I would want to ingest. I do not use lotions and potions and other chemicals in an effort to avoid one of those dratted physiological responses. I don’t drink alcohol because it makes my stomach ill and my head hurt. I don’t take drugs (including “legal” ones) because my body yells at me when I do. I don’t eat meat, or vegetables with chemicals on them. I don’t wear metal because it makes me itch.

I do ALL OF THESE THINGS and AVOID ALL THE BAD THINGS, yet I still, still! have reactions to the world around me because in spite of my controlling all the things I can control, there is still oh, so much that is outside of my control and damn it if my body doesn’t react to that crap, too. What the hell is a person supposed to do? How do we get away when the dominant culture doesn’t give a shit if your body reacts to the garbage they are dumping into the atmosphere and onto the surface of the earth and into its waters? They have even co-opted the attempts to avoid by making “detoxification” something one can pay for as well. Here, let’s poison you, and we’ll charge you to do it, and then, Here, let’s detoxify you, and we’ll charge you for that as well. (This ensures you stay on the treadmill this system has created to keep you a slave and take your life. (We’ll let you pretend that your life is your own, but we know better.))

I suppose the only thing that I can do is to keep avoiding as much as I can and be like the rest of the non-human world that has to contend with us and our ways, hiding under my rock or in my nest. Outer space simply isn’t an option.

Population Reduction

I read another article today about how humans need to change their eating habits if we are going to survive. In it, the author presumed a human population of 10 billion by 2050.

What I would like to know is why the population numbers are taken as a given and considering reducing population numbers is never even explored. If humans really want to make a meaningful impact, we are going to have to do more than change our eating habits. We are going to have to reduce our populations to much smaller numbers. We are going to have to accept that some of us cannot have children. That is the price we all have to pay in order to have any possibility of survival (which is slim anyway, considering our many destructive impacts on this planet).

Of course, any time anyone brings up the possibility of reducing population everyone starts screaming and jumping up and down that we are going to infringe on rights or force poorer populations to stop having families, but overreacting and assuming the worst-case scenario doesn’t alter the current trajectory and distracts from the reality that if we don’t do it, nature is going to do it for us, and it’s going to do it in a much crueler manner than we could. Death by starvation is not pretty. Humans cannot continue living as they have. Humans with greater resources cannot continue living like their needs are the only needs, and ignoring the entire planet in the process.

It’s a fact–the planet is not limitless and living like it is will ensure its destruction.

Depopulation Events

“A total world population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.” — Ted Turner, in an interview with Audubon magazine

“The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries’ shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits.” — John P. Holdren: from Ecoscience

“The elderly are useless eaters.” — Henry Kissinger: from “The Final Days.”

Does anyone else worry that a bunch of rich people are just planning to kill the rest of us? There is evidence out there that a bunch of corporate leaders are planning a world depopulation event. Maybe a few. Good times. Listen here if interested.

Thanksgiving Sonnet

Here again, my annual posting of the sonnet I wrote in college about turkey murder on our holiday. I’ve gone back and tried again and again to get the exact syllabic format for a completely proper sonnet, but could not find words to replace those here that would maintain the imagery and metaphoric content that I want, and so it stays the same.

Thanksgiving Sonnet
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill: mutilation, holocaust.

Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower belching death in putrid smoke, blackening holiday skies. Annihilating light.

Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With elaborate precision he’s taken apart; neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.

Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls, ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.

ChickensTurkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely film that all should watch is My Life as a Turkey. Watch it online here.

There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.” — John Oliver